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Lyme Disease


With tick season upon us, it's important to put Lyme disease into perspective.  It's not a disease to be taken lightly, but it is preventable and highly treatable.  Ticks feed on blood; they are second only to mosquitoes as carriers of human disease, both infectious and toxic.  A tiny tick, about the size of a poppy seed, called the black-legged deer tick or Ixodes scapularis, is a primary carrier of the bacterium (Borrelia burgdorferi) that causes Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection often accompanied by flu-like symptoms, typically accompanied by a round, bull's-eye-shaped rash around the tick bite area. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 20,000 people a year get Lyme disease and the vast majority are easily treated and cured with common antibiotic therapies.  Nearly all cases of Lyme disease are found in the Mid-Atlantic and northeast states.

The best method for managing Lyme disease is to avoid tick-infested areas. If exposure to ticks is unavoidable, measures should be taken to decrease the risk that ticks will attach to the skin. Some simple steps to avoid the tick bites that cause Lyme disease include:

·          Wear protective, light-colored clothing that minimizes exposed skin and provides a contrast to ticks, making them more visible.

·          If you are outdoors and may have been exposed to ticks, check your entire body every day to locate and remove ticks.

·          Use tick and insect repellents and apply them to your exposed skin and clothing, following directions on product labels.

A tick must be attached to a person for at least 24 – 72 hours before Lyme disease can be contracted.  Most people who are bitten by ticks do not get Lyme disease but, of those who do, seven in 10 people will develop a telltale rash, known as erythema migrans that is a clinical sign of Lyme disease. In addition to a circular, red rash surrounding the site of a tick bite, people may also have swelling in their joints and, sometimes, facial paralysis.  Some may experience a variety of non-specific symptoms such as muscle pain, joint pain or fatigue.  The symptoms can be alarming, but with proper diagnosis and treatment most will disappear in a few weeks.

Persons who remove attached ticks should be monitored closely for signs and symptoms of tick-borne diseases for up to 30 days. Most patients who develop Lyme disease are cured with a single course (10-28 days) of antibiotics, depending on the stage of their illness. Occasionally a second course of treatment is necessary.

Source:  Centers for Disease Control, Division of Vector Borne Infectious Disease; Source: WRTAC


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